THE 2022 World Cup is on the horizon and Sepp Blatter, who proudly held up the little ticket proclaiming Qatar had won the bid, has suddenly declared the Gulf state should not be hosting the competition. At the same time, a World Cup ambassador has insisted homosexuality is “damage in the mind” and fans are being paid to drum up propaganda while they are in Qatar. The tainted World Cup bandwagon will limp into Doha with all four wheels wobbling, even though 97% of tickets have been sold.
All reasonable people will be secretly willing the World Cup to be an economic failure, that FIFA will be left with egg on their faces. Those who have relatives and friends making the trip to Qatar hope they all come back unscathed. FIFA has already been “used” by Vova Putin and Russia and it is likely that Qatar will do the same. Russia did exactly what Germany set out to achieve in 1936 with the Olympics by presenting an acceptable face to the world in the form of positive PR, smiling faces and welcoming arms. The streets were “cleaned” in more ways than one but when the final came along, the solitary umbrella should have told us a little about Putin’s mindset. Competition over, seemingly successful, he didn’t care about the others getting a good old Moscow soaking.
FIFA made a huge mistake with Russia and they are doing the same with Qatar. The big difference is Qatar are buying support all the time, paying celebrities to endorse their country. The game is also doing itself an injustice by not speaking out and taking action. We need but one country to withdraw and the competition could unravel.
Blatter’s comments do him little credit, it is the equivalent of the cock starting to crow three times. In a few months, it will be impossible to find anyone who supported Qatar, even if the competition is a success. Actually, it will [officially] be a wonderful occasion because the public relations will tell us that. Qatar is the sort of place that can easily suppress problems, so the narrative will be overwhelmingly positive.
But really, Blatter speaking out at this advanced stage suggests the corruption was probably far worse than anyone could imagine. If a pivotal figure in the story tells us Qatar should not have won it, then you can be sure that he’s only allowing a peek at the tip of the iceberg. Sceptics have spoken about the process surrounding the bidding and also warned of Qatar’s human rights record, its treatment of migrant workers and its stance on homosexuality. In 12 years, the lack of activity around forcing FIFA to remove hosting rights really speaks of the apathy towards Qatar’s significant shortcomings. Now, in the space of a few days, Blatter and a World Cup ambassador have confirmed what we already knew. But still, the stampede to tiny Doha goes on.
The problem we have with World Cups is they are becoming too big to handle. A 48-team tournament is both unwieldy and expensive. In 2026, USA, Canada and Mexico will co-host, although it is clear it is a US production. The 2030 edition has yet to be decided upon, but among the interested parties are Saudi Arabia, which will bring a whole new wave of discussions. Morocco are in there, but it is hard to see FIFA ever granting them an opportunity. The fact is, on their own, most interested parties cannot seriously hope to stage the World Cup as it stands, but joint bids are undoubtedly the way forward. Unless you are Qatar, of course, with the financial clout to overcome real and perceived problems.